Sonia Tanti Independent Living Centre
The Sonia Tanti Independent Living Centre (PDF) (STILC) is Malta's first independent living centre. It was opened on 15 June 2011 and forms part of KNPD. The Centre provides persons with disability and their families with advice, information and training in order to achieve, regain or maintain their independence mainly by owning the means to one's own mobility.
The project was part-financed by the European Regional Development Fund and the European Social Fund – Cohesion Policy 2007-2013, with 85 per cent of the cost shouldered by the EU and 15 per cent by the government.
The STILC is divided into four sections:
Wheelchairs and Seating Unit
While local suppliers of wheelchairs, seating solutions and aids for daily living stock quite a wide variety of equipment that helps disabled people lead a more independent and productive life, there is also a wide range of equipment that is not available locally. This means that customers have no option but to place an order out of a catalogue with the distinct possibility of wasting their money on incorrect or unsuitable equipment. This includes wheelchairs that are quite often very expensive.
Thanks to the Wheelchair and Seating Unit, clients are assessed by occupational therapists and physiotherapists who give them personalised advice and help them choose the right solution to their needs from a variety of wheelchairs. This Unit also has a Pressure Mapping System that is used to identify which type of pressure distribution cushion is best for preventing pressure sores.
Adaptive Driving Assessment Training Unit
For some disabled people, driving their own car is an option as long as the vehicle they will be driving has the necessary modifications. These modifications are, in turn, determined on the basis of tests and assessments. Prior to the opening of the STILC, these tests and assessments could only be carried out abroad. As a result, very few disabled people who needed modified cars in order to drive had this option. But now, in the Driving Unit, occupational therapists assess the clients’ ability to drive by using a driving simulator. The client sits behind the wheel in the simulator, which replicates various driving scenarios, including various climatic configurations on the dashboard, and the therapists assess factors such as reflexes and motor skills.
As well as the abovementioned simulator, the Unit also has two modified vehicles, which clients can use to check which type of adaptations they need on their vehicles. Disabled people will then be able to receive driving lessons, through the Adaptive Driving Motoring School, from driving instructors who have been specifically trained for this purpose. Transport Malta has just released its permit for this motoring school to operate.
Equipment Demonstration Unit
Clients using this Unit may try out various aids that may help them in their everyday life, both at home and at work. Furthermore, three environments have been recreated at STILC – the kitchen, the office and the bathroom – where clients may be able to try different aids associated with these environments. These include height adjustable tables and kitchen work tops which everyone, including wheelchair-users, can work on. This Unit also houses a number of items that can be used by people with visual impairments to access printed material. There is also ICT-related equipment, such as modified keyboards and software for people with visual impairment.
Other Services Offered
The STILC also provides an advisory service – a helpline that guides disabled people and their families who phone or email the ILC regarding equipment and services that are best suited for their needs. It also offers an Outreach Service to disabled people and their families in Gozo. Following their training at the STILC, disabled people may be referred to employment and training opportunities that are suitable for them. These services can empower those with a disability to be well prepared for the world of work and to be fully integrated in society.
KNPD continues to seek ways of further developing the services available at the STILC in order to cater for a wide variety of impairment-related needs that disabled people experience and in order to continue to serve as a bridge for disabled people to gain access to education, training and employment.